Reuben Fries

Do you guys remember those old Guinness commercials where it would show the grown men running down the stairs in their jammies like Christmas morning to the keg of beer sitting in their living room for St. Patrick’s Day?

Honestly, that is totally how The Hubs and I feel on this day.

We are beer drinkers through and through. So when the one day a year comes around that celebrates the drinking of tasty Irish beers, we get pretty excited about it. It has become a tradition for us to park it on the couch with a tall glass of Guinness or Killian’s, and watch Boondock Saints. We never miss it. Our St. Patty’s Day dinner has changed over the years, but most recently (except for a couple of years ago when I was pregnant with Monkey and couldn’t stand the site, smell, or thought of corned beef) we make a big deal out of noshing on Reuben sandwiches.

This year, I thought I would shake it up a bit and make the sandwich into a sort of french fry nacho thing.

Pretty excellent huh?

And since this is really more of a grown-up holiday, I had my special grown-up helper in the kitchen to help me.

I am trying really hard to resist the urge to say here, “so easy, even The Hubs can do it.”

…oops. Never mind.

Hang on tight friends, this takes pretty intense culinary know-how.

First you bake up some (gasp!) frozen french fries.

Then you brown up some thinly sliced corned beef in a pan, and chop it up along side some Swiss cheese.

Then you layer on the toppings, and put it back in the oven until the cheese melts.

Crazy difficult.

Crazy good.

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

Reuben Fries

serves 4 to 5

28 oz bag frozen steak fries

1/2 lb thinly sliced corned beef

1/2 cup sauerkraut

6 oz Swiss Cheese, chopped or grated

Thousand Island Dressing to taste

Cook fries according to package directions, and leave on baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium sized skillet, brown corned beef slices over medium high heat.

Chop meat into small pieces and layer over the french fries.

Top meat with sauerkraut, followed by the cheese.

Bake for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Top with desired amount of dressing.

Baked Oatmeal Cinnamon Toast

A few months back, I did something pretty outrageous for a busy mom of two small children to do.

I outlawed cereal in this house.

Yes, when you are all bleary eyed first thing in the morning, haven’t even had a sip of coffee yet, but have two kids who are depending on you to feed them, you just want to throw something at them fast. And I’ll be the first one to admit, it doesn’t get any faster than cereal and milk.

When I really thought about it honestly though, cereal (especially the ones you can get kids to eat the easiest) really aren’t that great of a way to start the day. And I wasn’t even feeding them the “bad” kinds. I knew better than to be feeding them the ones that are obviously just sugar, but even the varieties that are touted as healthy are really just a bunch of empty calories. Still, I kept ignoring that little voice that kept trying to tell me that this probably was not the best way to start the day.

But then I realized we were all starving about an hour after breakfast. Amazingly, right around the same time I would start trying to think of a way to sneak out of whatever game I was playing with the girls to go grab a handful of nuts or something, The Dude would start asking to eat again. And once she was able to communicate it, Little Monkey Mode would do the same.

Well I don’t know if there many things more annoying to a mom who is cranky from a blood sugar drop than two whiny kids who are also cranky from a blood sugar drop and asking to eat again when she just cleaned up the kitchen from breakfast. Then said mom looks at the clock and realizes it is only 8:30. So she  starts banging around in the cabinets to find something else for everyone to eat while hearing herself say something brilliant like, “Ohmagosh! How can ya’ll seriously be hungry again already? We just ate?”

And that is why the cereal madness had to stop. Tasty and easy as it may be, I basically just figured it was a waste of everyone’s time to eat it.

So a couple of nights a week, I will whip up a quick oatmeal to bake the next morning while I am working out before everyone else is awake. We never eat the entire pan, which has turned out to be a good thing because I have figured out a really tasty way to eat those leftovers.

Basically, I am going to break down a method for you rather than a recipe, but I will tell you the basic formula for my baked oatmeal because I rarely make it the same way twice.

I let the oatmeal that I am making depend on the mood that I am in that evening or what kinds of things I think the girls would like, or what types of fruit or veggies I think that they haven’t had enough of at the time. But the formula roughly consists of 2 cups of oatmeal, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 cup of liquid (some type of milk or leftover smoothie…yes that’s right smoothie…), 1/2 cup mashed up fruit or veg (banana, applesauce, pumpkin…), 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt or silken tofu, 1 egg, and 1 to 1/2 cup of dried fruits (apricots, raisins, cranberries, cherries…).

I will pour the mixture into a greased 8×8 pan, cover with tin foil, and place in the refrigerator until the next morning. I will bake it for about 30 to 40 minutes at 350.

You might notice that my “recipe” is not very sweet. This is because I have weaned us off of a lot of real sugary foods. But to make The Dude feel special, I will usually let her dip her squares into a small cup of maple syrup.

Plus, I don’t feel bad about dousing it in cinnamon sugar the next day. Here is how we do that.

Cut your remaining pieces into desired sized squares. Then cut down the middle into two thin slices with a sharp, serrated knife. (This is why you just about have to use leftover oatmeal. It needs to be a little firmer to work well.)

(wow this shot looks rather violent huh?)

Then spread on some butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

Place these puppies under the broiler until the sugar is melted and bubbling with the butter, and the edges of the oatmeal are turning brown and starting to crisp.

Holy smokes! Do you see that crispy edge?? Now this is some seriously tasty, non-blood sugar crashing, non-cereal breakfast, friends!

P.S. If you would like a more concrete baked oatmeal square recipe than the one I gave you, here are a couple of good basic ones that I really like a lot. (They happen to be vegan, but that is really just a coincidence…)

Mama Pea’s Baked Oatmeal Squares

On The Glow Basic Oatmeal Squares

Apple Pie “Lara”balls

Wanna hear a cute yet slightly embarrassing story?

Wow. You answered,”yes” really quickly to that.

I have felt so blessed and proud of my sweet girls the past couple of days. All of a sudden, they have started genuinely playing together. And not in that, they are both interested in the same toy so it looks like they are playing but The Dude is really only seconds away from snatching it from Monk and getting the heck out of there, leaving me to discipline and wipe away everyone’s tears kind of way. But genuinely enjoying a little activity together to the point where they do not need nor do they want me around to supervise. Amazing. It has been the very thing that The Hubs and I have imagined ever since I found out I was pregnant with sweet Monkey.

And SO helpful! Holy cow. You would not believe all of the stuff I am getting done while they are playing together. I will get within earshot and take the opportunity to fold laundry, actually put said laundry away (shocking!), and sometimes even get to the really important task of checking my twitter feed every five seconds.

Yep. Life has been grand around here for me. Until I had to make the party stop yesterday afternoon.

The Dude walked in with her new “kite.

(Update: The Hubs thought maybe a picture of The Dude holding her “kite” was probably inappropriate. And I figure he is probably right.)

…a feminine hygiene product.

Mmm hmm, that is what I failed to tell you about the sweet game that Monkey and The Dude have been playing together. They found a couple of boxes of those under my sink and that was what they were playing with.It was a pretty simple game, but apparently loads of fun. The Dude would sit in my bathtub and throw them out onto the floor; then Monk would go around and pick them up and throw them back in the tub. Now they obviously have no idea what they were playing with, and I had been waiting for this glorious playtime for so long that I just let them keep at it.

But once The Dude managed to get inside the package and come out swinging the contents by the string, I decided it was time to end the little game.

Bummer.

So this story had absolutely nothing to do with today’s recipe, other than this is what I was whipping up when The Dude whipped out her kite.

Now I know that homemade Larabars are totally predictable. Yes, you have seen them time and again from food bloggers. But friends, these are awesome! They taste like a treat, but they are actually healthy; chocked full of heart healthy walnuts and flax seed. The apples are sweet, but not to the point of tasting like candy and you get a nice punch from the cinnamon and allspice. I really wanted to add some cayenne to these, but since I was planning on sharing them with little kids, I decided to abstain.

Now if you will excuse me, I have some cleaning up to do in the bathroom.

No wait.

Maybe I will just leave them scattered all over the bathroom to scare The Hubs.

Apple Pie “Lara”balls

makes 12 balls

1 cup raw walnuts

2/3 cup dried apples

2 tablespoons chopped dried dates

1 tablespoon golden flax seed

3/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon apple juice

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the walnuts and apples are in pea sized chunks.

Then turn on high speed until mixture is beginning to smooth and will form a ball if you press some pieces together with your fingers.

Press mixture into walnut sized balls, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

I mainly added this picture to document that I actually had my nails neatly painted for five minutes. (The sparkly top coat was all The Dude’s idea.)

Pollo Verde Lasagna

Friends, if you did not feel swayed to make the Pollo Verde before, you absolutely have to now. I am not kidding when I tell you how freaking delicious this lasagna is.

THIS LASAGNA IS FREAKING DELICIOUS!!

Saturday’s Slow Cooker Pollo Verde recipe actually yields a good bit of food considering you are only using 2 chicken breasts. So we naturally had a lot left over. While I really enjoyed the chicken, I honestly just kept feeling reluctant to go heat it up and eat it again in tacos or quesadillas like we ate it the first night.  I never mind heating up leftovers for dinner, but I rarely want to eat it the exact same way it was served before, so I will usually think up random new ways to use up what is in the fridge.

When lasagna popped into my head, I realized that I absolutely had to drop everything right then and make this for dinner on Sunday night. Unfortunately, I also realized that we had no lasagna noodles in the house. Not to be deterred, I quickly went to a blog friend to find a recipe to make my own noodles. (Dear Mother Thyme, thank you thank you! I love you. You are my new BFF!). I halved her recipe and it made three beautiful layers for my 8×8 pan. Her recipe was easy and absolutely perfect for this dish.

As for the cheese, I just sort of grabbed things at random really. I sprinkled in some grated mozzarella that needed to be used up, tossed in a little sharp cheddar, and sliced up some beautiful fresh mozzarella for the top. I think that this would be good with any combo of the ones I used with pepper jack, queso fresco, or even a little Paremsan .

I assembled and baked it just like you would a traditional lasagna.

First, I spread about 1/4 cup of the chicken onto a greased 8×8 pan. Then placed a layer of noodles. On top of the noodles went on about 1/2 cup of chicken followed by about 1/4 cup of cheese. Then I was able to repeat the process two more times with the amount of noodles I had. I also used a good bit more cheese on the very top just to make it extra cheesy and gooey.

I actually made this while The Monkey was taking her afternoon nap and when I finished it, it was about an hour away from when I wanted to pop it in the oven. So I just covered it with tin foil and set it on the counter until it was time. I baked it for 40 minutes covered. Then took the tin foil off and baked it for another 10. At that point the cheese was plenty melted, but since I have a real weakness for browned bubbly cheese, I turned on the broiler until it was to my liking. Then we let it rest for what felt like a million years, even though it was only about 10 minutes.

Seriously, guys, I cannot say too many times how great this meal was. I know you are going to love it.

Pollo Verde Lasagna

1 3/4 cups Slow Cooker Pollo Verde

1 cup cheese (cheddar, pepper jack, mozzarella, Parmesan, queso fresco….)

1/2 box lasagna noodles or 1/2 of this wonderful homemade lasagna noodle recipe

Preheat oven to 350.

At the bottom of a greased 8×8 pan, spread 1/4 cup of the chicken.

Cover with noodles.

Spread noodles with 1/2 cup of chicken.

Cover chicken with 1/4 cup of cheese.

Repeat twice, but add closer to 1/2 cup of cheese to the top layer.

Bake covered for 40 minutes.

Uncover and return to the oven for 10 minutes more.

If desired, turn on broiler for about 5 minutes, until cheese is brown and bubbly.

Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Slow Cooker Pollo Verde

…oh yeah people…she’s bilingual too.

Impressed?

Yeah well don’t be. Most of the Spanish I know comes from being locked in the house with two little kids who enjoy a certain Nickelodeon exploradora as their entertainment of choice.

Here are some of the very useful, real-world nuggets she has taught me.

Quieren venir a bike park? — “Would you like to come with us to bike park?” …gosh I love it when the girls and I get to go to the magical bike park together.

Vamos a volar! — “Let’s fly!” …as in, let’s fly on the winged horse Pegasus on a snow fairy adventure.

Hadas de la nieve! — “The snow fairies are flying with us!” …man, if I had a dollar for every time I have to say this every day.

Mmm hmm. Yeah. You feel me, Moms.

You know how else you feel me?

Two English words — slow cooker.

Good lord. The only thing other than Dora that can tame the 5:00 crazies in this house is knowing that supper has been cooked and cleaned up after way before it is ever time to eat.

Gracias!

This sauce basically has two cooking phases, but worry not. It is pretty much all hands off time.

The first phase is the roasting of the veggies. Cut them all into roughly the same sized pieces, rub them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Pretty.

Then roast them for about 30 minutes or until the skins of the veggies are starting to blister a bit.

Now fair warning, this is when the house is going to start smelling really good, and will continue on for the rest of the day. Right as these came out of the oven, The Dude came around the corner as if on cue declaring that she was hungry. I would advise you to have plenty of snacks handy on the day that you make this.

Then plop them into your slow cooker with the seasonings and water (although I have to say that some white wine and chicken broth would also be nice), and blend it up with an immersion blender. If you don’t have an immersion blender, just put it in a food processor or regular blender first. No stress, friends.  At this point, start adding salt to your liking. If you notice, I rarely have a recommended amount of salt for you to add to my recipes. Everyone is so different on how much they like, I figure it is just better to leave it up to you. But definitely don’t forget to salt it…it needs some salt.

Once you have it seasoned to your liking, nestle in some chicken breasts (mine were totally frozen, I will have you know…), and, amigos, you are finished for the day. You know the whole slow cooker deal. If you are able to get it all done early in the day then set it to low. However, if your kids get all crazy and you can’t get after it until an afternoon nap, set it to high.

When you are about an hour or so away from supper time (you know…right around the time you cave and turn on Dora in desperation and self-loathing), grab a fork and shred the chicken. It will be so tender at this point, it will literally fall apart at the mere touch of the fork. Lovely.

Here is what it looks like when it is done.

Okay so it isn’t the most gorgeous dish anyone has ever made. But served up in a tortilla with a few extra sprigs of cilantro and crumbled pepper jack cheese…

Hora de comer!  “Time to eat!”

Slow Cooker Pollo Verde

1 lb tomatillos, husked and rinsed

1 medium to large poblano pepper

1 medium red onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

6 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 cups water

juice from 1/2 lime

sea salt to taste

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (approx 1 lb)

Preheat oven to 425.

Slice tomatillos, poblano, and onion into similar sized pieces. Cover with oil and sea salt.

Roast for 30 minutes.

Place roasted vegetables in a slow cooker with garlic, cilantro, cumin, paprika, pepper, water, and lime. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth.

Season with sea salt to taste.

Add chicken breasts to the sauce, making sure that it is completely covered.

Cook on low for 8 hours.

About 1 to 1/2 hours before serving, shred chicken with a fork and continue to simmer until ready to serve.

Baked Eggs in Ham Cups

So I know I have mentioned it a couple of times already, but my sweet Hubs is a bit CrossFit obsessed.

I mean seriously.

Like to the point where he is voluntarily trying to kill himself to submit his workouts to The Open. And where the subject of the Paleo diet (the CrossFit recommended eating plan), which used to be a totally hypothetical discussion wherein we would end the chat laughing about how ridiculous it would be for us to try to eat that way since he doesn’t eat veggies and I don’t really care if meat is on my plate or not, has now become a real thing that we are trying to do at least one night a week.

So it has turned into sort of a fun new cooking challenge for me. Sure, it is frustrating too because now I have three picky folks to try to feed with a long list of restricted ingredients. But I am trying to make it work. And while I have had a few massive fails. (You know who you are, freaky guacamole/chicken fiasco, from a few nights ago!) Here is one that was definitely not a fail.

This recipe is basically all protein and contains not a single grain, dairy, or legume item (Phew!). If you served it up along side a heaping pile of fruit salad or veggies of choice, you would be doing pretty darn well. Or if you just want them to snack on, they are perfectly delicious at room temperature.

I feel like I should mention here that there really may be something to the urban legend you hear from celebrity chefs about how if you get your kids to help you make something, then they are more likely to eat it. When I made these, I knew that The Hubs and I would like them, but I honestly didn’t think that The Dude would be into it. Ever since she started school, she has gotten terrible about shunning foods that she used to love (eggs being one them). But I had her help me with every step including stirring the egg mixture and I am proud to tell you that she ate an entire egg cup! So maybe kids really are more likely to eat stuff if they have some ownership on it.

Here’s what we did.

I separated out some thin deli ham for The Dude and let her place them in the cups for me while I cracked some eggs in a bowl.

Then I said, “Look! Do you see that over there?!” to distract her while I went through and pressed the ham into the cups neatly.

Then I added the salsa, salt, pepper, paprika, and cilantro to the eggs, handed over the whisk, and let her have a go.

Then I poured the mixture evenly into the ham cups (a bowl with a spout or measuring cup makes things quite easy here) and baked those bad boys up.

Paleo meal (or snack) is served folks!

Baked Eggs in Ham Cups

makes 6 cups

6  slices thin deli ham

3 eggs

1 tablespoons salsa

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375.

Place one slice of ham into 6 ungreased tins, creating little cups and set aside.

Place about 1/4 inch of water in the remaining wells.

In a medium bowl combine eggs, salsa, paprika, cilantro, and salt and pepper.

Pour egg mixture into each ham cup about 3/4 full.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Allow to cool in the muffin tins for 2 minutes and then gently lift out with a fork and place on a cooling rack until ready to eat. (The water that bakes out of the ham can make it soggy if you leave them in the pan.)

Serve warm or at room temperature.

P.S. I would just like acknowledge for anyone who noticed, that yes I was gone for a couple of weeks (It really bothers me for some reason when people start off their blog posts with “sorry I have been MIA recently…”). Believe it or not, I still haven’t burned out of this little hobby of mine yet. Rather, someone with whom I was extremely close and has been one of my best friends since I was a teenager passed away a week and a half ago. It was the first time that someone I had a very strong relationship with died, and it has obviously left me reeling. Basically, I just needed a little time to get some motivation to get back in the normal swing of things. I will probably devote a whole post (or ten) to her at some point when it will be something I can write about without it sounding like some sort of a weepy obituary. In the meantime I will just  keep on squeezing my kids every chance I get, telling the people I love that I love them, and cooking up a storm. I urge you to do the same.

P.P.S. Sorry. I couldn’t end the post on such a sad note. This is supposed to be a fun place. So here is my favorite picture of The Dude from this little photo shoot.

Now if you will excuse me, I gotta go give that silly face a kiss.

Amazing Cold Fighting Cookies

This week has totally kicked my tail.

I think I mentioned last Saturday that The Dude was sick. Well she is better now, but of course Monkey and I caught her cold. That by itself wouldn’t be so bad except that I was a single parent this week.

The Hubs had to go out of town for work. When he left I had a whole list of fun projects I would do while I had the house to myself after the girls went to bed. I was going to work on recipes, get some random deep cleaning done, try out a project on my new sewing machine, and maybe paint my fingernails while watching Sex and the City. But then the day after he left, Monkey Mode and I woke up with fevers. Swell. So guess how many of those things I got to check off of my to-do list?

That’s right. A big fat zero.

Oh well. I know things could be worse. A lot worse for that matter. But knowing that doesn’t change the fact that it was a crappy week.

So anyway, since everyone is disease fighting around these parts, I naturally started forcing citrus down their throats as often as possible. But then I thought about zinc and what a wonderful immune booster it is.  So I started Googling foods that are high in Zinc. Well gosh darn it if wheat germ isn’t number two on the list — one of my favorite foods to throw into baked goods and oatmeal. In fact, one of my new found favorite cookies has wheat germ as one of the main ingredients.

So I was inspired to bake up a citrusy, wheat germy (how appetizing does that made up word sound??) treat that the girls would get excited about eating to help bolster that immune system a bit.

Here is what I came up with. I think you will like them. Light and healthy. The wheat germ is fun because it doesn’t weigh the cookies down like whole wheat flour does. It actually stays quite tender and gives the cookies a slightly nutty flavor. And the grapefruit (I know this is a shocking ingredient choice since I have never used grapefruit in any of my recipes before…) is understated and gives it a nice sweet freshness. The honey sweetens them up with a pretty floral note. Lovely

As with most of the baked goods that The Dude and I to make together, I used flax seed in the place of an egg. I like that it adds in some healthy fats, but mostly I just like that I don’t have to worry about rogue fingers scooping samples as we go. You can definitely substitute an egg if you would rather. But I will also tell you honestly that while we enjoyed the baked cookies, we also just snacked on the leftover dough straight out of the refrigerator. So I’m just saying that it wouldn’t be the worst thing that you ever did to treat your sick kiddos to Amazing cold Fighting Cookie Dough…just sayin’.

Amazing Cold Fighting Cookies

1/4 cup milled flax seed

1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (1 medium grapefruit)

5 tablespoons butter, softened

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup wheat germ

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup oats

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon soda

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground ginger to taste

Combine flax seed and grapefruit juice in a small bowl and set aside.

Beat butter, honey, and vanilla until well combined 2-3 minutes.

In a separate bowl combine  wheat germ, flour, oats, salt, soda, and ginger.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir until just combined.

Pour in the grapefruit mixture.

Place dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to set.

Preheat oven to 350.

Place 2 tablespoon sized mounds onto a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes. (The cookie will still be slightly soft to the touch. Do not over bake.)

Dough will keep up to a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

I asked The Dude to show me what cookies would look like if they were fighting a cold.

I’m not sure if she totally caught my meaning, but it is still cute.